The debate over clerical celibacy has once again taken centre stage after a priest in a northern Italian city came clean last August about his love affair with a separated woman.
When the scandal first broke, the accused priest, Sante Sguotti, who serves a church in Monterosso, near Padua, seemed to imply that he had fathered the woman’s one year-old child. However, in an official statement released later, he denied being the child’s father and admitted only to loving the woman in a ‘chaste way’.
When the local bishop, Monsignor Antonio Mattiazzo, attempted to oust the cleric, Sguotti argued that he would not abandon his flock unless they did not want him. Surprisingly, when a ballot was cast, approximately 200 parishioners showed support for the priest, voting to keep him on.
Sguotti now wants to become officially engaged to his girlfriend in a special ceremony next December: ‘I have known Laura for more than eight years, but not in the biblical sense. I am in love with this woman and I helped her choose her child’s name’, the priest recently stated to the press.
He also stressed that their relationship would remain chaste because ‘canon law does not forbid a priest to fall in love or become engaged in a celibate manner’. ‘I want to remain in the Church and so I will obey the celibacy rule’, he said, although he firmly believes that ‘falling in love is a fundamental stage in life’. He added, ‘A person can’t be a good priest or nun or anything else in life unless he has experienced love at least once’.